On The Air: ‘Dead Air’ celebrates 40 years on KVMR with T-shirt designed by Crabb | TheUnion.com

On The Air: ‘Dead Air’ celebrates 40 years on KVMR with T-shirt designed by Crabb

The Dead Air "40 Years So Far" teeshirt artwork was designed by The Union cartoonist R.L. Crabb
Designed by R.L. Crabb


WHAT: 40th Anniversary Party of “Dead Air” on KVMR, the longest consecutive running show on the Nevada City community radio station.

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 3, 8 p.m. to midnight

WHERE: 89.5 FM, Truckee 105.1 FM, kvmr.org streaming

INFO: R.L. Crabb-designed “Dead Air” T-shirts available throughout the membership drive, with information at kvmr.org or 530-265-9555 (daytime)

“Dead Air” — the longest continuous running show on KVMR 89.5 FM community radio at 40 consecutive years — is still going strong.

That anniversary will be celebrated live on the Nevada City radio station this Saturday night, featuring a limited edition collector’s item “Dead Air” T-shirt, with a design that’ll put a smile on any Deadhead created by R.L. Crabb, The Union’s cartoonist.

The show, with six different hosts, will run four hours, from 8 p.m. to midnight Saturday (89.5 FM, 105.1 FM Truckee, kvmr.org).

Dead Air, quite simply, features the music of, duh, The Grateful Dead and it has transcended generations even if Jerry Garcia passed away 25 years ago and the surviving band members last performed together in 2015.

Back in 1980, Johnny Hill and Jim “Winfield” Wilson proposed a two-hour, twice-monthly Dead Air show “because we didn’t want to burn out doing it.” They got a 11 a.m.-1 p.m. slot.

“It was the first show on KVMR that featured only one band, and somebody on the Program Committee told me ‘We don’t think you’ll last three months’,” according to Winfield, “That’s been ingrained in my mind ever since.”

Winfield will join current “Dead Air” coordinator Art Porebski, Paul Barbieri, Joel Brungardt, Connie Coale and Chris Towne to host Saturday night’s live broadcast festivities.

“The first part will be mostly straight ahead songs,” notes Towne, who had the “time and gumption” to take on coordinating the membership drive fundraiser. “After the break, we’ll stretch it out with jams, drum solos. The kind of anything can happen it’s the Dead.”

As far as Towne knows, “Dead Air” may be the longest running Grateful Dead show in the country.

Towne thinks artist Crabb “really nailed it” with his T-shirt design. The shirt will be available with a $10-a-month sustainer membership or a gift of $120 or more. The shirts will be available anytime during the station’s Thursday through Sunday on-air fundraiser at kvmr.org or by calling 530-265-9555.

As for The Dead, Towne says “They’re like no American band because they facilitate all genres of music into one, and it’s absolutely beautiful in its imperfectness.”

Winfield’s been along for all of it, though co-founder Hill left the show after, um, 25 years.

The late Richard Dunk was an additional host when the show went weekly in the late ‘90s and donated his massive Dead concert collection to the station, which Porebski painstakenly added to KVMR’s digital library.

And “Dead Air,” which moved to Fridays early on and to Saturdays early this century, had quite the fundraising prowess.

“At one point we held the pledge drive record for best one hour show, two hour show, three, four, six and 12 hour shows,” he says with a smile.

Don’t get Winfield started talking about The Dead. Wait, get him started.

“Non-Structured, Complex, Improv, Music styles, music blended from sea shanties, Americana folk, Mississippi and Chicago blues tunes, mystical cord changes, world music, the music scene in the SF Bay Area at the time, other like minds…”

But he ends with this about The Dead:

“They are not the best at what they do. They ARE the only ones who DO what they do!” and “We are everywhere.”


Earlier Saturday, it’s the return of “Hillbilly Jukebox” with TJ Meekins and guest host Ginna Allison, featuring classic hillbilly, honky tonk, bluegrass and western swing plus stories about the stars from 4 p.m to 6 p.m. this Saturday (89.5 FM, kvmr.org streaming).

“You’ll listen to Rose Maddox talk about her tragic first marriage and find out just how bad young Merle Haggard really way,” says Maddox.

Adds Allison, “And you’ll hear how Dr. Ralph Stanley got a flat tire and changed bluegrass history.”


“KVMR Lights The Way” — the station’s fall membership drive — gets underway with a healthy dose of folk and Americana music Thursday afternoon, including a special noon to 2 p.m. show featuring Brian Terhorst and Harmony Ridge at noon instead of his usual mid-afternoon spot he shares with Dave “Buzz” Barnett. Barnett will be buzzing 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Meanwhile, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman will be talking about the importance of independent media directly to KVMR listeners during the show this Thursday night at 7 p.m.

On The Air is a regular irreverent feature about Nevada City’s eclectic community radio station at 89.5 FM and kvmr.org, its sister station with NPR and Pacifica mornings and the kvmrx indie pop stream at other times at 105.7 FM. KVMR’s fall membership drive is this weekend, offering the R.L. Crabb “Dead Air” 40th anniversary teeshirt as a thank you gift.

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